Disengagement is a Micro Issue

Last week I attended a leadership conference where the title of one of the speeches was “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”.  The speaker went on to explain the subtle but sure signs of some one who was disengaged at work. A friend of mine is a living case study of a dis-engaged worker. He has a cute coffee cup which he proudly displays on his desk which reads “some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins”.

Early this year Gallup published a disturbing finding showing that over 70% of North American workers are either “actively disengaged” at their jobs or “not engaged” at all. However, when you look at the research over the past decade there is nothing really new about this statistic.  The chart below shows that between 2000 and 2009 rarely did the percentage of engaged workers go beyond 30% in the US. There is no reason to believe the numbers in Canada are any better.


Actively disengaged employees are described as those who are physically present but psychologically absent. These are workers who are not only unhappy with their work situation, but insist on sharing this unhappiness with their colleagues. Those who are not engaged simply show up to collect their pay cheque but exhibit little discretionary effort on their job. Gallup estimates that the millions of actively disengaged or not engaged workers cost the North American economy between $450 – $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

Many organizations measure engagement at the aggregate level, and then try and design a one-size fits all corporate program to improve overall employee engagement. I firmly believe that effectively combating dis-engagement is a micro issue that revolves around the role of leaders and managers. This is where the management paradigm of human equity comes in.

As I explain in the book The Human Equity Advantage, human equity is the first model of leadership intentionally designed from a positive psychology perspective. As Dr Martin Seligman (the father of Positive psychology) has said positive psychology focuses on factors that lead to fulfilling lives where people flourish. Based on this paradigm, I believe human equity can substantially improve employee engagement by showing managers how to leverage employee purpose and motivation at the individual level.

On September 18th The Conference Board is offering a webinar entitled How to Address Rampant Employee Disengagement.  The webinar will introduce a series of human equity management tools known as SHAPE V. These tools are a systematic method for uncovering the valuable intangible assets in each employee in order to optimize on total human capital and improve employee engagement.

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